There are a wide variety of local events in the Los Angeles area that I periodically attend. I must say that I go through phases where I attend more events for a while and then I pull back and only attend a few. Right now, I'm in a fairly selective mode. So, when I go to an event, I want to make sure that I get the most I can from the time. Generally, it's a commitment of 3-4 hours between driving, networking, program. I have to make sure that I get at least as much value from that 3-4 hours as I would from spending the same time using LinkedIn for Networking – and that's tough competition.
Over the years, I've somewhat changed what I'm looking for when I attend a local event. It used to be that I first looked for good content. A program that had interesting speakers and where I expected to learn a lot. Now, unless its someone really great, I don't go because of the program. Most often I can spend 30 minutes on my own to get a better result in terms of content than I get from 60 minutes at an event. And most in-person events do not give you a back-channel or much opportunity for Q&A.
Side note: I very much enjoy local events where I'm the moderator because then I do get to shape the topic to my interests.
Obviously, if it's not content, then the key ingredient is who else is going to be in the room.
Quick Decision Process
I spend about 5-10 minutes deciding if I'm going to attend. The way I do this is simple. I try to find a list of people who are attending the event. Many events now publish the list such as the following:
If they don't have a similar list and I can't find the event on Facebook or LinkedIn or somewhere else, then likely I won't attend. I've found that it suggests that it's not going to be a good group and I definitely won't be able to pre-network so even if it's a good group, it will be hard for me to get much value from the group.
Using the list of attendees, I randomly sample 5-10 people. Actually, it's most often not random, I choose more people who have Profile Photos (but don't get me started on that). I choose people with names that are a bit more unique so that it will be more likely to find them on LinkedIn.
I have the LinkedIn Browser Toolbar installed which gives me a right click action …
So I can see a few mini-profiles:
Okay, I won't be spending more time on this list and I won't be attending. No offense to attorneys and investment advisors, but the attendee list suggests this is general networking mixer and not likely worth the time investment.
Side note: there generally is a high correlation between the people who have profile pictures on the site and the people who have profile photos on LinkedIn.
If the results had been better, then I would have spent time drilling down on people like Lee:
I don't know Lee, but by scrolling through his profile I can see some possibly interesting things to discuss. Does Browse My Stuff make sense from a channel marketing standpoint? What is happening from an eLearning 2.0 perspective around channel training? So, Lee and I could have a very nice conversation.
Gee – maybe I should change my mind and plan to attend. I could go back and look for 4 or 5 other Lee quality people and decide to attend after all.
Alternatively, I can reach out to Lee directly through LinkedIn and just set up a quick 30 minute call. In fact, that's what I will do after I'm done writing this post. And 95% likely that we'll talk within a few days. That's what makes it harder to convince me to go to a local event.
Pre-network the Event
Assuming that I am seeing a few different Lee-quality people, then my next step is that I'm going to pre-network with them prior to the event. I try to do this roughly about 2-3 days ahead of the event. That way the list of people attending is fairly complete and there's still time for back and forth with the person.
I will go through the list of attendees more thoroughly on this pass looking for anyone who I want to meet at the event. I look to find 5-8 people. You want to have a large enough list of people because some won't end up going and if you've committed to meeting someone at the event, you will end up going. And you could find yourself at an event waiting for that one person talking to attorneys and wealth planners.
For each of those people on your pre-network list, you simply send a "Get Introduced Through a Connection" to them:
It's nice that I have multiple people who can introduce us. It gives me a nice touch point with someone I already know. And they can vouch for me in the introduction. You don't get that when you are at the event.
Then you compose your message. The nice thing is that the subject is easy – name the local event.
My message to Lee would be very similar to what I'd say when I would meet him in person. Maybe something like:
I saw you on the attendee list for the upcoming event. I'm planning on going as well and it looks like we might have some good things to discuss. It looks like you have a background in eLearning and I'm going to be curious to hear how you are applying it for channel sales. I also have a technology that I think might apply in an interesting way.
I just wanted to make the connection so that I'd be sure to meet up with you at the event.
You generally will get a very positive response to this kind of message and your time at the event will be much better because of the pre-network effort that you've put in.
This technique equally applies to conferences and other kinds of events. Unfortunately, few conferences provide attendee lists.
For more discussions on networking and LinkedIn see Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California, Secret for Networking at Events – Prenetworking, Pre-network with LinkedIn, Local Event Organizers Need to Adopt Social Media.